In the wake of Hurricane Florence, students from Sampson Middle and Clinton High schools wanted to do something that would positively impact the more than 9,000 students in neighboring Pender County.
With the assistance of a team from New York, students collected items and donated them to the staff and students who continue to rebuild following the floods and devastation from last month’s storm.
Kristen Lee, guidance counselor for Clinton High School, saw a post on Facebook that she says caught her attention and made her want to do something to help. The post simply read, “Prayer request: There are 60 Pender County school teachers that are homeless, 600 school children who are homeless, and 77 people still in a school shelter. Nothing is normal here, we need a few extra prayers.”
“I know many of us here in Clinton have been able to resume most of our normal daily activities, but a post on Facebook really resonated with me and made me realize ‘normal’ is not the case for many of our friends to the east,” Lee said.
In the weeks following Hurricane Florence, Clinton City Schools has been collecting items for the families in the area. Lee said they felt like they had most of Clinton’s families covered, and wanted to send the remaining items, and more, to Pender County.
“I know the urgency has passed for many of us and I don’t want people to lose sight of those who still have no sense of normalcy and won’t for quite some time,” Lee said. “We want to help.”
High school students who are part of the Student Government Association and Peer Group Leaders began collecting additional items to give to those in need in Pender County.
Cameron Fardy, a senior Peer Leader and student body secretary, said helping was something she knew she had to do.
“So many people were suffering and I just felt like I had to do something,” Fardy said. “Knowing that I had something to help others who have lost everything makes me feel grateful for still having my things after this catastrophe.”
While Clinton students missed seven days of school due to the hurricane, senior Xanayra Marin-Lopez knows just how lucky her school and classmates were following the storm.
“God blessed our community with the outcome of the hurricane in that we received less destruction and suffering than our surrounding regions,” Marin-Lopez said. “There never is any place where we as a whole can say it’s okay to put a halt on helping anyone else. Good goes around.”
Dr. Beth Metcalf, executive director for K-12 instructional data support and elementary education for Pender County Schools, thanked the students for their hard work and support following the hurricane.
“Pender County Schools is grateful for wonderful neighbors and supporters from areas near and far,” Metcalf said. “Clinton City staff reached out almost immediately after Hurricane Florence and offered to help. Their donations will have an immediate and positive impact on the students, families, and staff of Pender County Schools. The devastation to our county and schools caused by Hurricane Florence is unprecedented, but the support and various community efforts to rebuild and care for one another have also been unprecedented. The support from Clinton City Schools helps to move our schools and community toward a new level of normalcy and a full recovery.”
Students in Pender County have been out of school since before Hurricane Florence made landfall. A message on the PCS Facebook page says students can expect to return to school at the earliest, Oct. 18, but the window extends to Oct. 22. The start date has become more fluid with funding obstacles, contractor costs and government protocols. The system is working with local, state and federal officials to find funding to repair damage to some of the schools.
Knowing the devastation students in Pender County are facing, Clinton High School senior and varsity soccer player Lukas Jerez-Chandia said he feels fortunate and wanted to help and make a difference.
“We are fortunate enough to have a smile on our face and live happily, while others are not as fortunate,” Jerez-Chandia said. “We should spread that happiness and make it contagious around us.”
Amaya Apolinario, senior and SGA member, echoed those words.
“Florence didn’t just affect individuals, it affected our entire community,” Apolinario said. “To me serving means putting your community above yourself. That’s why I wanted to help.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.